The Government’s White Paper outlines the intention to introduce a new 12-month general work visa, which it says will be necessary to make up the shortfall in workers created by the ending of freedom of movement. The Government claim that it will be a skill-based system, even though they have repeatedly identified an income limit of £30,000, as we have heard many times today, which is above the annual wage for full-time workers. Our concern is that that will limit the ability of employers in both the public and private sectors to recruit to fill labour and skill shortages. It will also create a new category of low-skilled migrants and temporary workers whose rights will prove extremely difficult to uphold in practice. As a result, it is likely to have a detrimental effect on the ability to uphold the rights of all workers who occupy the lower-paid jobs affected.
We heard oral evidence from Rosa Crawford, the TUC representative, that the Bill
“will not only make life harder for EU citizens and workers in this country, but have the effect of making conditions worse for all workers.”––[Official Report, Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Public Bill Committee,
She went on to say that for any temporary visa migration system, the limited visa brings the inherent risk that workers will face further exploitation because their condition of employment is limited to their legal status in a country. An important change that would mean that all workers were less at risk of exploitation would be to ensure that workers, regardless of immigration status, could enforce their employment rights in line with international labour organisations’ documentation. It is essential, therefore, that new visa regimes are developed in consultation with trade union representatives, to avoid the weakening of the rights of all workers, not just migrants.
The other point that I wish to raise relates to the seasonal agricultural workers scheme. The Government have been forced to reintroduce a pilot scheme for 2,500 workers from outside the EU. Although billed as such, Ministers claim that it will alleviate the labour shortage created by the abolition of the seasonal agricultural workers scheme in 2013. In its previous form, the scheme recruited 22,000 workers. The current pilot is tiny in relation to the number of workers needed. As we have seen, the National Farmers Union was “outraged” by the scrapping of the SAWS and called the current pilot inadequate.